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Carvin DC400 Electric Guitar Review

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Carvin DC400 Electric Guitar Review

This review was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Dan Vuksanovich

In 2010 I graduated from business school, and to reward myself for giving away two years of my life to the pursuit of an MBA, I decided that it was time for a new guitar. At the time my only guitar was a 1989 Ibanez Jem 777v.

…I love this guitar. I love it so much that I sold my Jem…

I’ve been looking at Carvin catalogs since I was a kid, and I’ve always wanted a Carvin guitar. Before the Internet, however, there was too much perceived risk in order a guitar sight-unseen from some far away company that I couldn’t see or touch.

Fast forward to 2010, and I was able to do a significant amount of research online. I found nothing but positive feedback about Carvin guitars. So I ordered mine, and I’m here to tell you that my experience is no different. This is a spectacular guitar at a great price.

Features:

Carvin makes guitars to order, custom to your specs. They have an incredible number of options considering the price point, so this section will not cover all the possible features because that would be impossible (you can visit the Carvin website to see all the available options for yourself). It will only cover my chosen options.

Standard options on the DC400 are:

  • Maple neck through alder body
  • Flame maple top with choice of translucent finish
  • 25” scale length
  • 24 frets
  • 12” fretboard radius
  • Abalone block inlays
  • Chrome hardware
  • Carvin’s FT6 fixed bridge
  • Sperzel locking tuners
  • Carvin’s stock C series humbuckers
  • Active/passive electronics
  • Coil taps
  • Phase switch

My personal customizations were:

  • Tune-O-Matic bridge with strings through body
  • Jumbo stainless steel frets
  • Carvin’s high output pickups (instead of the standard medium output pickups)
  • Black hardware
  • Satin finish on the neck (instead of high gloss)

As you might imagine from all the features, this guitar is extremely flexible. The only thing it can’t do (because I didn’t want a Floyd Rose, though I could have added on if I wanted to) is dive bomb, but that’s OK because maintenance of a Floyd is way more trouble than the Floyd is worth, in my humble opinion.

Ease of use:

The guitar came with a couple of pages of instructions on how to use the locking tuners and all the electronics options, as well as setup specifications. There are a lot of knobs and switches on this guitar, so it can be a bit daunting at first to remember which knob does what, but after a little while it becomes second nature.

Where this guitar really shines is how easy it is to play. It’s incredibly well made, so the neck is fast and the action can be set very low. In addition, I am now officially addicted to stainless steel frets, so much so that when I play a guitar without them I can feel the extra friction from the frets. If you’ve never played a guitar with stainless steel frets, do yourself a favor and give it a try. You may never go back.

The one thing that could be easier on this guitar is tuning. I do love the fact that the tuners are locking, but the gear ratio is a bit small, so the pegs are extremely sensitive. This is only a problem during live performances when quick tuning is a must, but considering how much attention to detail Carvin obviously put into this guitar, this small issue stands out.

Sound Quality:

I love the way this guitar sounds. The high output pickups make getting the 80’s sound I love a breeze. Harmonic squeals literally leap out of the guitar.

As mentioned above, the guitar is very flexible, and it’s somewhat of a crime that I only use the bridge pickup with the tone knob maxed out. I have toyed with some of the other settings, however, and while I don’t use them extensively I must say that there are a lot of great tones in this guitar, regardless of what kind of music you want to play.

The one complaint I have here is the “active” mode of the pickups. I love a high gain guitar sound, and I was extremely interested in the ability to have both active and passive high gain sounds in a single guitar. One of the benefits of active pickups is that there’s less noise on high gain settings while retaining the high output.

These are not active pickups, though, even in active mode. The active mode simply boosts the output and gives you an onboard EQ (a bass and a treble knob on the guitar that only work in active mode).

For high gain use this is a problem because active mode is actually noisier than passive mode. I now only use the passive mode, and if I had known this prior to ordering the guitar I would have ordered a less expensive model that didn’t come standard with active/passive.

Reliability:

This is a very reliable guitar. In fact, I currently gig with it as my only guitar. I’m going to order a backup soon and it will be another Carvin. I’ve had it for over a year now and I have yet to break a string, on stage or off. Tuning stability is good, though I’m a bit obsessive about tuning so I’m tweaking the pegs all the time anyway.

The one reliability issue I’ve had is with the nut. It was not perfectly cut when I received the guitar and I was getting some binding on the unwound strings. I needed to decide if I was going to ship the guitar back to Carvin to get it fixed under warranty or just take it to a local shop. I decided to take it to a local shop and got burned by a guy who really wasn’t talented enough to be working on a guitar of this quality.

And this brings me to the only real downside of owning a Carvin. They’ve got this great warranty, but unless you live in southern California, you’ve got to ship your guitar to them to take advantage of it. In the long run, the overall quality of the guitar and the great price make owning a Carvin worthwhile anyway, but this aspect is a pain, especially for a guy who only has one guitar right now.

Overall Rating:

I love this guitar. I love it so much that I sold my Jem. I just couldn’t play the Jem anymore. The sound of the Carvin’s high output pickups and the feel of the stainless steel frets are just too good for me to play anything else.

In conducting my research for a second guitar I’ve searched far and wide for another company that will put stainless steel frets on my guitar right from the factory for a reasonable price. There are none, other than Carvin, as far as I can tell. I see no reason for me to play any guitars other than Carvin’s for the foreseeable future.

This review was submitted by Guitar Jar contributor: Dan Vuksanovich

About the author: Dan Vuksanovich received his Master of Music degree in classical guitar performance from the Peabody Conservatory of The Johns Hopkins University in 1999. He currently teaches and blogs about how to get better at guitar via his website, www.whyisuckatguitar.com.

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1 Comment

  • I had a Carvin DC125 years ago. I had it for the first probably 25 gigs I ever did. The 125 wasn’t great. It had a Floyd Rose (made by Kahler, oddly) I could never get to stay in tune (I was only 12), and only a bridge pickup. The pickup never sounded fat enough to me, even as a humbucker, and then as a single coil it was super-thin.

    It was a cool colour though (metallic dark blue) and no one else I ever met had one. Still, yours sounds like a much better guitar.

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